Best books for back to school |

Best books for back to school

Book jackets

Written by Gi Hallmark

August has arrived and the long summer days have paved the way for families to contemplate where summer went as they begin ushering in time honored back to school rituals. Shopping, teacher assignments, transportation and class lists begin to seize the last few days of summer vacation as families scurry to prepare for the year ahead. It’s a bittersweet time for those who pine for the lazy days of summer but also crave the predictability of schedules and routines at the same time.

For many children, back-to -school is synonymous with excitement- reuniting with friends and teachers, embarking on new adventures and fresh opportunities for fun.

But for some children (and perhaps, adults too), back to school also invites worry and anxiety over separation and uncertainties. Anxiety about friends, schedules, teachers, and riding the bus can plague back to school enthusiasm.

Though it’s difficult to prepare for every situation, experts suggest taking away as many unknowns as possible to help ease common worries and anxiety; suggestions include touring the school, meeting the new teacher, practicing first day of school routines and identifying as many positive things as possible.

Families can also validate and help alleviate back to school anxieties by sharing books together to help open the discussion about the causes and ways to manage worries. There are dozens of books available with back to school themes and the emotions that accompany this rite of passage. Visit your local library or Charlotte’s Park Road Books and discover these 10 back to school favorites.

The Kissing Hand

By Audrey Penn | Illustrated by Ruth E. Harper & Nancy M. Leak | Tanglewood Press 1993 | Ages 3-8

Publisher’s Synopsis: School is starting in the forest, but Chester Raccoon does not want to go. To help ease Chester's fears, Mrs. Raccoon shares a family secret called The Kissing Hand to give him the reassurance of her love any time his world feels a little scary. Since its first publication in 1993, this heartwarming book has become a children's classic that touches the lives of millions of children and their parents, especially at times of separation, whether starting school, entering daycare, and going to camp.

Wemberly Worried

By Kevin Henkes | Harper Collins 2000 | Ages 4-8

Wemberly is a worrier. She worries about everything, big and small. With the start of school right around the corner, she worried even more. When school starts, Wemberly finds a friend and kindred spirit and realizes that though she doesn’t have to stop worrying, school can be fun. This book is a back to school favorite and master storyteller and illustrator Kevin Henkes handles a common back to school emotion with empathy and compassion.

First Day Jitters

By Julie Danneberg | Illustrated by Judy Love | Charlesbridge Publishing 2000 | Ages 5-8

From the publisher: Everyone knows that sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach just before diving into a new situation. Sarah Jane Hartwell is scared and doesn't want to start over at a new school. She doesn't know anybody, and nobody knows her. It will be awful. She just knows it. With much prodding from Mr. Hartwell, Sarah Jane reluctantly pulls herself together and goes to school. She is quickly befriended by Mrs. Burton, who helps smooth her jittery transition.

Back to School Weird Kids Rule

By Dan Gutman | Illustrated by Jim Paillot | Harper Collins 2014 | Ages 6-10

From the publisher: Summer is almost over, and you know what that means—time to head back to school! But when a tropical storm ends A.J.'s vacation earlier than expected, he and his family have to stay at Andrea's house. Ugh, disgusting! When everyone in the house starts getting cabin fever, and even back-to-school shopping won't calm the kids down, Andrea and A.J. are sent to Camp Ockatollyquay. The catch? It's a camp to get kids ready for school! But not to worry—Andrea and A.J. rally the Ella Mentry School gang to end their summer on a note they'll never forget.

The Berenstain Bears Go To School

By Jan, Stan and Mike Berenstain | Illustrated by Mike Berenstain | Harper Collins 2005 | Ages 4-8

From the publisher: On the first day of the school year, Brother and Sister Bear are nervous and excited. But with tons of new stuff to learn and explore, by the closing bell they can hardly wait for day two! There's something for everyone in this quintessential back-to-school book from Stan, Jan, and Mike Berenstain.

Monsters Love School

By Mike Austin | Harper Collins 2014 | Ages 4-8

From the publisher: Celebrate the beginning of school with hilarious, energetic monsters in Monsters Love School from picture-book author-illustrator Mike Austin. Summer is over, and now it's time for the biggest adventure of all . . . Monster School! Join these colorful monsters as they go to school for the first time. Reading and writing and learning your monster history has never been so much fun!

The Pout Fish Goes To School

By Deborah Diesen | Illustrated by Dan Hanna | FSG Books for Young Readers 2014 | Ages 2-5

From the publisher: Turn little pouts into big smiles! Mr. Fish is nervously awaiting his first day of school, and he frets about not knowing how to write his name, how to draw shapes, and how to do math—until he’s reassured that school is the perfect place to learn how to master all of these new skills

Chu’s First Day of School

By Neil Gaiman | Illustrated By Adam Rex | Harper Collins 2014 | Ages 4-8

From the publisher: Chu, the adorable panda with a great big sneeze, is heading off for his first day of school, and he's nervous. He hopes the other boys and girls will be nice. Will they like him? What will happen at school? And will Chu do what he does best?

The Night Before First Grade

By Natasha Wing | Illustrated By Deborah Zemke | Grosset & Dunlap 2014 | Ages 6-8

From the publisher: It’s the night before the Big Day—first grade. Penny is excited to start the year with her best friend right beside her in the same classroom. This humorous take on Clement C. Moore’s classic tale has a perfect twist ending that will surprise readers—as well as the “heroine” of the story—and help all about-to-be first-graders through their own back-to-school jitters.

How Do Dinosaurs Go To School?

By Jane Yolen | Illustrated by Mark Teague | Scholastic 2007 | Ages 3-6

From the publisher: Everyone's favorite dinosaurs are back, and this time they are going to school. More fun dinosaur antics await. These prehistoric pupils are in a class of their own! As in their previous books, Yolen and Teague capture children's rambunctious natures with playful read-aloud verse and wonderfully amusing pictures. What would you do if a very large Ceratosaurus stomped into your classroom? And what if the student sitting next to you was a gigantic Silvisaurus, who decided to jump on top of the desk? Come along and join the fun as dinosaurs ride the bus, read their favorite books, and have fun on the playground with all their friends. Filled with entertaining details and familiar scenes, each illustration includes the name of the featured dinosaur hidden in the picture. Going to school has never been so much fun!


< Gi Hallmark, creator of, is a freelance writer and mother of two lovely girls. For more information about, follow Gi on Twitter @thechildrnsblog.

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